World-renowned French born Canadian classical pianist and composer Alain Lefevre purchased a place in Greece in 2015, a long-time dream, years after his first ‘coup de foudre’ for the country back in 1997, when he was invited to perform in Thessaloniki which was then the Cultural Capital of Europe.

Lefevre’s parents were both musicians. He started playing the piano at 4 1/2 years of age. By 5 1/2, he was considered a child prodigy and had given his first concert. Dedication and practice (7-8 hours every day), led him to the top with performances in over 40 countries, at the most prestigious venues – Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Herode Atticus Theatre to mention a few. Canada has honoured him with the awards of Knight of the National Order of Quebec, and Officer of the Order of Canada. He has recorded close to 40 CDs featuring a vast classical repertoire, including also a special interest in more recent classical composers (such as the works of the late Canadian composer and pianist Andre Mathieu, 1929-1968).

Stella Sevastopoulos of Neos Kosmos, caught up with Lefevre at his beautiful home in Athens. Under the light of a fantastical chandelier, that was enclosed in a globe of bronze hoops, he talked about the dark side of globalisation, how humanity has lost its light, why he loves Greece, and more:

What do you like about Greece?
The Greek mentality is still a free one, and that’s what I love. You realise this when you travel a lot. I find myself a happy man in Greece, I have a wonderful relationship with the people here, I have friends here, some are 75, 81, 82 years old and we swim together. Swimming in particular, has changed my life. Because when you are in a cold country, practising the piano all the time when you’re not touring, staying three to four weeks in Montreal when it’s minus 25, you don’t have much else to do. Here, even in the winter I can swim with my friends or have a coffee with them for hours. Try to do this in New York, or Montreal, try to spend four hours with just one coffee. They will most likely ask you to leave. There is a sense of humanity in Greece that in other countries you can’t find anymore.
If Greece has been able to go through this terrible crisis, it’s because of that, and the family that was also there to support people.

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Alain Lefevre, world-famous pianist, chooses Greece as his home. Photo: Caroline Bergeron

What about the Greek music scene, have you worked with Greek musicians?
There’s something that moves me in this country and that has made me a better composer. My compositions have evolved here. My new CD to be released in 2020 on Warner Classics will be called ‘Opus 7’ and I composed a piece dedicated to the people of the Mati tragedy, on the very next day of the fires, which I entitled ‘Mati’. I asked the great bouzouki player, Thanassis Polykandriotis, to perform it with me for the recording. It was so emotional…

I composed a piece dedicated to the people of the Mati tragedy, on the very next day of the fires, which I entitled ‘Mati’.

Your previous CD was called ‘Sas Agapo’
– ‘Sas Agapo’, is saying to Greek people exactly how I feel about them. It was the first album of compositions that I entirely wrote in Greece and it was a way for me to say thank you. People say to me Greece is great, but I say to them, yes, but so are the Greek people! People do not understand what is happening in the world, that everywhere is becoming the same, and for me that is depressing. But here in Greece, I like the freedom that is still here. Of course the pressure is on for Greece to change. But the Greek people are very independent. You can push them, but to a certain level. What is Greece, in comparison to the economical power of the Chinese or the Americans? Nothing. But the Gods were born in Greece, democracy was born in Greece. There’s something special here.

In concert at the Athens Festival with the Athens State Orchestra.
Photo: Thomas Daskalakis/Courtesy of the Athens Festival

What about outside Greece?
– The world is depressed and dying because of the lack of true values, such as love and friendship. The young people who I have worked with, they want a little truth. We are living in the age of the great impostor, because people have become impostors everywhere, in all sorts of professions – from music to politics. Everyone is lying. I’m allergic to phony people, so my only wish would be for Greece and the Greeks to stay as they are, being a little bit difficult. It’s not bad to be difficult, to resist.

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Why move to Greece?
My choice to have a place here was from an artistic and mystical point of view. A spiritual choice. Greece was wonderfully shocking for me.

Has your composing been influenced by Greek music?
In ‘Sas Agapo’ yes. I’m a friend with some Greek musicians too, such as Remos. When he heard this music, he said it reminded him of rebetika…

What about the plight of classical music today?
Classical music isn’t promoted at all. In Hollywood movies in particular, it’s the weirdos and the bad people that listen to it!

Let’s talk about Samos and what role it played in your life.
Samos was a big love in my life. I first went there to play at the Manolis Kalomiris Festival, but then I started visiting Samos for 15 years, every summer. I love Samos with all my heart. I composed pieces such as ‘Ilios’ and ‘Thalassa’ there. I wrote a lot of music in Samos, it inspired me. People talk to me about Mykonos, but it doesn’t have the energy of Samos, there’s something spiritual there, especially in Pythagorion.

What would you say to a young person today who wants to become a musician?
I wouldn’t discourage them, but I would tell them what the situation is, and it’s tough for classical musicians. It’s the same for people in the arts everywhere, they can’t put food on the table. We only hear about the ones who succeed, but there are so many others struggling. But the world is dying to have some hope, for something better. We are in a dark period of humanity, so we have an obligation to give hope to the young people. And all this talk of the planet suffering etc, I don’t think this is the solution. This focus will just make things darker. We change the world, when we enlighten the world. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, they gave us light. We have to put the light of culture back on.

• Lefevre’s website: